Across the world, the workwear business looks like a good clothing sector to be in, with total growth of 5.4% for corporatewear and 8.1% for workwear being forecast. However, companies that want to get on in the workwear market should focus their efforts on the developing world, according to a recent report from just-style.

Workwear, and corporatewear in general, is completely different from other forms of apparel - not in the way it is constructed but in the way it is sold. For 25% of the population of the developed countries of the world, what they wear to work is what their employers have given them.

In its report 'Global market review of workwear - forecasts to 2012,' just-style estimates the workwear market for 2005 was worth US$4.241bn, with 128m workwear wearers worldwide who are each given an average of 2.9 garments per year.

Corporatewear, on the other hand, is more image-heavy and this is reflected in its market value of around $9.367bn, with 209m wearers worldwide who are each given an average of 2.9 garments per year.

But while the traditional workwear sector has suffered as many countries' industrial bases have continued to decline, corporatewear has flourished in the developed world, as the work market has become privatised, more service-based and more concerned with image.

Growth to 2012
In US dollars at wholesale prices, just-style estimates the world market for workwear for 2012 at US$4.585bn.

This figure is derived from an estimate of 142m workwear wearers worldwide, each of whom are given an average of 2.9 garments per year, which will be no different from 2005. The average value of each garment will be US$11.27, which is lower than in 2005.
For the year 2012, just-style estimates that the corporatewear market will be worth US$9.872bn. This figure is derived from an estimate of 240m wearers of any form of corporatewear worldwide. Each will be given an average of 3.2 garments per year.

Geographical differences
The market is also very different geographically, with the percentage of employees given workwear and corporatewear varying from 16% in North America to 1% in the rest of the world.

Volume figures, however, tell a different story. Asia holds a massive 43% of the world's workwear volume, for instance. In fact, just-style predicts that spend-per-adult growth by 2012 will be especially strong in Asia and Latin America.

The overall market is expected to rise by 8.1% between 2005 and 2012, with Asia representing a gigantic 60% of the world growth and Latin America accounting for a substantial 45%.

North America, on the other hand, will witness only small growth, the report suggests, with growth in the European market stagnating.

The biggest winners of all will be India and China, just-style forecasts, while the main losers will be the mature markets of Western Europe.

This is crucial, the report says. It stresses, in fact, that companies operating in developed markets should consider whether there is enough long-term growth here, as the picture at the moment suggests workwear potential is opening up elsewhere.

"The analysis for 2005 and the population projections suggest that the developed world is a mature market for both workwear and corporatewear," it says. "Further growth will be limited, and will lie in the developing world."

Basic workwear garments
Importantly, growth is initially predicted to be for the most basic workwear garments, and will only later become evident in corporate imagewear.

Because market growth, of course, rests on the percentage of employees who are actually given workwear and the price that their employers are prepared to splash out in order to promote a company image.

just-style believes that companies in the developing world will buy into the concept of corporate imagewear, but that this will be a gradual process, with the first step being the purchase of basic workwear as an employment benefit.

Developed world opportunities
The question is where this leaves companies which have already established workwear and corporatewear businesses in the developed world.

The experiences of selected corporatewear companies suggest that:
• Small- and medium-sized companies can pursue a product or industry specialism.
• Medium-sized contract companies must concentrate on design leadership and the added-value of image.
• Large companies must reach out globally, market their brand and source from low-cost countries.

In addition, these companies have highlighted that opportunities exist to partner with local suppliers when marketing imagewear.

"…these seem to be particularly attractive in China, India and parts of the Middle East," the report says.

On the whole, workwear seems to be a healthy sector and a worthwhile one to be in, but the success of an individual company depends on where it is based, its channels of distribution and from where the garments are sourced.

Moreover, those looking to cash in on the sector's opportunities should use their marketing to persuade developing countries of the benefits of corporate image.

For more information on the report 'Global market review of workwear - forecasts to 2012,' click here